On Monday, Xbox announced that Gears 5 had over 3 million players over the launch weekend, setting a Game Pass record and doubling the debut of Gears 4. This made it the most played Xbox Game Studios game since Halo 4.
This is great news for Xbox, The Coalition, fans, and anyone who likes games. More people playing games should signify that the industry is growing.
However, there seemed to be some “concerns” regarding Gears 5’s success in relation to Game Pass.
Gears 5 was heavily marketed as an Xbox Game Pass game, and as mentioned earlier, set Game Pass records.
The “concerns” were over how many physical and digital sales there were for the game, whether Game Pass would retain subscribers after players were done with Gears, how profitable Game Pass and Gears are, etc.
While I’m no business expert myself, I think it’s safe to say that Xbox is looking at Game Pass as a long term investment, rather than a game by game bet. I don’t know how many of the 3 million players used Game Pass. I also don’t know how many sales Xbox lost by putting the game on Game Pass.
All I know is that Xbox is playing the long game with Xbox Game Pass. They are not looking at every single game as a profit, rather an investment. Each game that attracts a subscriber is a game that potentially brings and retains a subscriber.
While they may initially lose money per customer by losing a sale versus a Game Pass subscription, Xbox will gladly eat that loss if the customer is eventually committed to the eco system.
They are so eager to get players into the Game Pass ecosystem in fact, they let members who had Xbox Live Gold upgrade their Gold into Game Pass Ultimate for one dollar.
Yes, a dollar. So if for example, you had 12 months of Xbox Live Gold, you could convert that into Game Pass Ultimate, which sells at 14.99 USD per month regularly, for a single dollar for the entire 12 months. Does that sound like a company that is more concerned with the short term or long term gain?
Sales of games obviously still matter to Xbox, but they seem to care much more about subscriptions to Game Pass then individual sales. Hence the heavy marketing of Gears 5 as a Game Pass game.
Which is why the concerns around the individual sales of Gears 5 are moot. Asking how many physical or digital copies Gears 5 sold considering Xbox’s plan is like asking HBO how many blu ray copies of Game of Thrones they sold and basing the success of the company and series on that. It doesn’t work like that.
Having quality games that people continue to come back to is the entire point of the model. Gears 5 is an example of that quality, it’s up to Xbox to give customers a reason to keep their subscription.
Having a subscription service in the gaming space is a new endeavor and it can be confusing to understand the business model. How is Xbox going to survive if they are just putting all of their games on a service and losing out on traditional sales?
That’s the investment Xbox is making. Hoping for a large subscriber base to make up for the lost sales. In a world where physical sales are becoming less and less viable, and a world where subscription services are becoming the norm, Xbox is getting in first.
It’s no guarantee that they will be successful, but so far things look promising. They are the first to market out of the console manufacturers in terms of platform based services, and being first to market could prove to be profitable in the long run.
We will have to wait and see how Game Pass does going into next gen. Halo Infinite launching late next year on the most devices in Xbox history will be a big test to prove the viability of the service. Xbox is making a huge bet on their own services and quality of games, we will have to wait and see if it works out for them.